It’s no secret that our national sport is 100% baseball. It is undoubtedly America’s “national pastime”. As American as apple pie. ICYMI, our national pastime, was once cricket – a game sometimes so confusing and slow that comedian Robin Williams once called it “baseball on Valium”. A game in New Jersey was almost the turning point of the whole sport. Follow us to learn more about the history of cricket in New Jersey.
History of cricket in America
By the start of the 18th century, the sport of cricket had grown in popularity in England. When British settlers came down to North America, they naturally brought the game. Cricket was played in America when it was still called the New World before officially becoming the United States. Advertisements for cricketers date back to a New York newspaper in 1739, and the first documented competition took place in 1752 somewhere in Manhattan. There are even archived references that cricket was played here as early as 1709.
Cricket was considered a game of bat and ball and was a common sport played by troops during the American Revolution. Despite its resolutely English origin, the first Americans quickly took up sports. Benjamin Franklin brought a copy of the England cricket rule book. George Washington is documented as having played at least one “wicket” game at Valley Forge. The sport enjoyed great popularity in the tri-state area between philadelphia cream and New York, where it was reported that more than 5,000 people played in the area. Ivy League universities developed collegiate cricket clubs, and the game became a huge hit in Philadelphia.
From 1783 all things British declined, but cricket retained its popularity until the Civil War. It was during this time that a legendary match on New Jersey soil almost made cricket America’s favorite pastime.
The legendary game at the Champs Elysées in Hoboken
In the years before the Civil War, Hoboken’s Champs Elysées was a famous sports ground. It was regularly the site of major cricket matches and had many spectators.
On September 6, 1859, 12 of England’s finest cricketers visited the George Hotel in Liverpool to prepare for their trip overseas. The next day they headed for America, on the ocean liner the Nova Scotian, to play the world’s first international cricket match. They were heading towards HobokenNew Jersey, to put cricket on the world stage.
From October 3–5, 1859, additional ferries were ordered to handle the crowd of viewers, estimated at around 24,000. the sports fans were determined to cross the Hudson River and watch America’s stars take on England’s top players. The British team’s tour of North America was one of the most publicized sporting events before the Civil War, with the Champs Élysées as its first stop.
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England have largely won. The final score of the three-day game was 156-36 as the Brits secured a decisive victory. It was a legendary game in the history of cricket, hailed as a great event for the sport in its entirety. But perhaps losing badly on the world stage caused the United States to turn to another sport altogether.
Three years later, the American Civil War began, crushing the popularity of cricket for good. Baseball became the sport of the United States, played in two hours while soldiers rested in camps. There was no time to play a game on consecutive days or stop for tea in the middle of a game. Baseball could be played quickly, was considered exhilarating, and quickly became a favorite pastime with teams and leagues springing up across the fractured country.
With its lack of hustle and popularity on the streets, baseball proved to be the winning sport in America, eclipsing cricket’s popularity in no time. Baseball was considered the “people’s game,” a fast-paced, fast-paced game that represented the heart and soul of life in America. Cricket became known as a casual game for gentlemen. The rest is obviously the story.